Tackling the water scarcity issue: Controversy and secrecy

Nov 04, 2021 | Posted by MadalineDunn

Water scarcity is increasingly becoming an issue globally, and data centers, which typically guzzle around 3-5 million gallons of water per day, the equivalent of the water usage by 30,000-50,000 people, are adding to the problem. As the climate issue worsens and big tech companies continue to expand their data center footprints, people are pushing back. 

While more companies are making big green commitments, most of the time, their promises and pledges aren't matching up with reality, and this greenwashing is causing big problems. After all, research shows that one-fifth of data centers source their water "from moderately to highly stressed watersheds."

One particular area that is voicing its concerns is The Dalles, Oregon, where Google is planning to construct at least two more data centers.


According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the area is already experiencing extreme drought. Yet, Google says it's "committed to the long-term health of the county's economy and natural resources, and part of its expansion includes a "potential aquifer program", which would help the area retain water and increase supplies during dry periods.

Understandably, many are doubting the sincerity of these claims considering that the city of The Dalles recently filed a suit in state court to keep private that amount of water that Google uses for its data center campus. This filing against the local publication The Oregonian also precedes a coming vote on whether Google should be given further water supplies for its data center expansion. 

Speaking about Google's concealment of its water usage and the public's right for the information to be disclosed, Ellen Osoinach, staff attorney for the committee, said: "Google's attempt to cloak its use of a vital community resource - water - is irreconcilable with the requirements of Oregon public records law. Oregonians have a right to this important information."

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